Afghan election audit under way | Asia Pacific

Afghan election audit under way

Afghan election audit under way

Updated 14 July 2014, 11:49 AEST

An audit of all eight million votes in Afghanistan's disputed election has started.

Presidential contenders Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have agreed to abide by the result of the audit, in a deal brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry on the weekend.

Preliminary results of the second round vote put Dr Ghani in the lead, but Dr Abdullah -- who won the first round -- rejected the second-round outcome, citing fraud.

Interviewer: Tom Maddocks

Speakers: Professor William Maley, the Director of the Asia Pacific College of Diplomacy, Australian National University, Canberra

MALEY: What one normally does in these circumstances is utilise various triggers which draw attention to particular suspect ballot papers. 
Now, the audit will on the one hand be of every vote that has been cast, and so it's a substantial task.  But there will be some ballot papers that will obviously require much more careful scrutiny than others and the triggers tend to be things like the overwhelming majority of papers being cast for just one candidate, turnout which is suspiciously high compared to the number of voters who are seen to exist in a particular province or district, polling stations where more women seem to have voted than men, which is not typically what one finds in Afghanistan, and other triggers of that kind which are fairly technical in character.
MADDOCKS: How legitimate will this process be?
MALEY: Well, it looks from what's been announced so far is ISAF will be responsible for the transportation to Kabul of the ballot papers, but that the audit itself will then be carried out by Afghan authorities, under the scrutiny of both representatives of the two candidates and international organisations.  And those that have been named so far, have been the European Union and the National Democrat Institute, but there are others of some distinction that are likely to become involved in the process as well. And I don't think there is too much doubt that all the suspect ballot boxes will be subject to fairly close scrutiny.
MADDOCKS: And, the two candidates have agreed to the audit. Will they abide by the results?
MALEY: Yes, I think it's highly likely that they will. The process so far has been a substantial victory procedurally for Dr Abdullah, because virtually everything that he was demanding has been delivered. But that's partly because what he was demanding was actually quite reasonable and sensible, given the evidence that had already surfaced of complicity of the Afghan electoral authorities, at least to some degree, in the perpetration of fraud, in the run off on the 14th June.
MADDOCKS: Perhaps also because he was pretty upset that the second round was so different from the first round. Ashraf Ghani won by more than 10 percent this time. The first round, he trailed Abdullah Abdullah by a fair bit. Now, what happened there?
MALEY: Well, the most likely explanation is probably massive fraud in provinces in the area known as Loya Paktia, which seem in the second round to have returned very substantial votes in favour of Dr Ghani. There is, I'd insist at this point, absolutely no evidence that Dr Ghani himself has been involved in any fraudulent activity, and he, more than most candidates would realise how devastatingly the legitimacy of a President could be compromised by the perception that he'd come to office on the basis of fraud. 
So in a sense, it's also in his interest to have a process which is impeccably clean, because only under those circumstances, would he be capable of if he's chosen as President of exercising the full authority that that office might hold.
MADDOCKS: This next period is likely to be a protracted one. Will that have further impact on this deadlock?
MALEY: No, I think on the whole, it's better to have a longer process where the outcome is one which is accepted by the two candidates, even though one will be a loser and one will be a winner, rather than a process which is compromised with the risk that the candidate whose announced to be the loser, will go off with a sense that he was the winner, a sense that's likely to be shared by supporters who maybe a good deal more hot headed than the individual candidates.


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